comscore Lee Cataluna: Desperate owners of Hawaii vacation rentals turn to locals as assets | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna: Desperate owners of Hawaii vacation rentals turn to locals as assets

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Oh, so now owners of Hawaii vacation rentals want to rent to local people.

Now that the tourism industry is flat on its back, local residents with their $1,200 government checks are looking like acceptable occupants of various rattan-and-Ross bedspread rooms and cottages across Hawaii.

Not for long, though. Just for now.

For this moment in time, when the option of turning over a unit every other night isn’t an option, owners of vacation rentals see the value in contributing to the inventory of housing for local residents. The pandemic and tourism shutdown has opened their eyes to the possibility that the people who live here can be potential assets rather than crybaby liabilities who whine about overnight guests parking on their lawn or partying at all hours and banging their rolling suitcases up the stairs in the middle of the night. Funny how that changed. Funny how “It’s my right to do whatever I want in my property, damn the zoning laws” has softened a bit to “E komo mai, friends! You could call this lovely unit home.”

Well, at least for the next couple of months or so. When the tourists start packing the place again, the local residents will be invited to leave so the rent can be jacked up to tourist-level profits rather than long-term-rental sustainability.

Who can blame folks for trying to survive the economic destruction, right? Hustlers gotta hustle. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of delight in the irony, though.

The rental ads for the empty transient vacation rental units stick out in the “home for rent” listings like dog-show dogs at a poi dog convention.

Here are some key words and phrases:

>> Fully furnished

>> All linens provided

>> Stocked kitchen, including French press

Here are some typical images in the photos:

>> A faux weathered sign that says, “This way to the beach”

>> An oversize jar filled with sand and faux starfish

>> Posted laminated instructions on how to use the outdoor shower, the in-sink disposal and the tiki torches on the tiny lanai.

Some are surprisingly down-market, like the ones that are basically outbuildings on properties with no running water except the garden hose. Others are just extra rooms in people’s houses. Some are swanky.

But the most telling element: a very short lease or month-to-month.

That’s called hedging one’s bets.

It may seem like a ton of tourists are flying in and staying in illegal vacation rentals right now (all vacation rentals are illegal right now as they have been deemed nonessential, whether permitted or not) with the express intention of breaking curfew, but clearly, many are sitting empty, Ross bedspreads untouched, French presses not pressing, fake starfish all sad and lonely.

If only a local family had been renting the place. No guarantee they wouldn’t be out of work right now, but at least there would be somebody who could pay something, which is better than nobody to pay anything.

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